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Building Your Brand On A Budget

When you are launching a business, you want to launch it as cheaply as possible. You already have a lot to spend out, and when it comes to your branding, you need to think of ways to have it slick and powerful – without a massive spend, or instead of spending just in the right places.

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro on Unsplash

Let’s talk… 

Use What You Have

There is a big temptation when you are starting a business to buy new things to use. Of course, you want new notebooks, branded pens, and glow in the dark ink… things that you feel will put the fire under you and will give you the big juice on the branding and your business. But, resist temptation. Hold back. 

Use what you have at your disposal right now. If you have a mobile phone, you can take photos and make videos. If you have access to the internet, you can create logos and color palettes. Heck, you can even build a virtual team this way too. A limited budget forces you to get creative to go with it. 

Templates Make The World Go Around

So use them! For sure, you want to be a unique and individual company, and you can’t do that with a template… or can you? Wix, Squarespace, Canva, PicMonkey, and https://www.templafy.com/ have some of the most customizable templates on the market. Meaning that you have simple and practical tools and can create a website, social media posts, and all of your business documents in minutes. Small spend, big perks. 

If you are, however, blessed with excellent technical skills, coding, or the affinity for graphic design, then consider this a way to speed up your own process and something that can be tweaked and molded to exactly what you need. 

Exclusive

If people don’t think they can get something, it becomes something they NEED. FOMO will almost always work in your favor. If you can create a sense of need or even one of curiosity, you are going to do better than 99% of other start-ups. 

The option for early adoption, critical access, a waiting list – all entices people. Not showing all of your cards straight away can be a big deal. 

Collaboration

Who you do business with, will dictate who does business with you. For example, if you are a make-up brand, and you are currently working with companies that test on animals – you’re going to feel the force of losing credibility pretty quickly. 

And, will miss out on being endorsed by millions. However, partner with the right animal charity for the right reasons – and you’ll cement your position in the area you really want to be in. 

When you collaborate, you can maximize your brand awareness and your research pretty quickly. Look for a person or a company that has the same ethos and vision as you to maximize the chances of working well together. 

When you don’t have a big budget, that can actually be a more powerful motivator than being able to pay for everything to be done. So use it. 

3 Important Tips For Novice Real Estate Investors

Real estate investments are a very popular strategy and if you know what you’re doing, you can make a lot of money from them. However, a lot of people get the wrong idea about real estate investing. They assume that it’s easy money and as long as you have the money for a down payment on a property, you’re guaranteed to get rich. That isn’t the reality at all and there are plenty of novice real estate investors that lose money because they make poor decisions. If you are considering becoming a real estate investor for the first time, here are a few important things to remember.

3 Important Tips For Novice Real Estate Investors - attractive family home image
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Consider The Type Of Property 

You already know that location is one of the most important things to consider when investing in real estate, but it’s not the only thing that you have to think about. The type of property and how it performs in that location is important too. For example, a one bedroom flat aimed at young working professionals will be easy to rent out in the middle of a large city, but it is not going to be desirable in the middle of a small village. In that kind of location, you’d have more luck with a modest family home. You need to think about the kinds of people that live in the area and what type of property they want. 

Seek Legal Advice 

There is a lot of paperwork involved with real estate investment, but a lot of people assume that they’ll be fine because they have bought and sold their own properties in the past. However, you should always seek the advice of Residential Property Solicitors when investing in real estate because there are other issues to consider. For example, if you are buying commercial property, they may be issues around the use of the building and you may not be able to make alterations. In some cases, you may also inherit liability from the previous owner if there are health and safety concerns. It’s important that you have a legal professional to help you navigate these issues before you sign the contract. 

Start Small 

The biggest mistake that novice real estate investors make is trying to build a property empire straight away. They are counting on the fact that they’re going to rent all of these properties out right away and make loads of money, but that won’t always happen. There are a lot of initial costs to cover like renovations and repairs, and it can take some time before you find tenants. If you are going to be successful, you should stick with one modest property to make sure that you can cover all of the running costs. Once you have moved tenants in and you are earning money on your investment, you can put that money into a new property. 

Real estate investments can be very lucrative, but they are not without risk. If you are a novice, make sure that you follow these tips.

How Employee Happiness Can Boost Your Company’s Profits

Should you run your own business, the welfare of your employees should be your priority anyway. What kind of a boss would you be if you didn’t care about their happiness levels? Not a very nice one, we are guessing. On both a moral and an ethical level, you need to treat your employees well. 

However, ensuring your employee happiness will also bring about a boost to your company’s profits. How? Well, consider the following. 

How Employee Happiness Can Boost Your Company's Profits - satisfaction survey image
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

#1: They will stick around for longer

The employee turnover rate is high in some businesses. Many people leave within six months of joining a company, and this is often because of an unorganized and poorly handled onboarding process. Others leave because they don’t feel valued. And some employees leave because little is being done in the way of support for any problems they might be having. 

Should you lose an employee, you will have to suffer the expense of the hiring process again. This will obviously dent your profit margin. You also run the risk of losing your best employees, and this could affect your company profits. 

By ensuring your employee happiness, however, you won’t have to suffer losses associated with employee turnover. To care for them, you should:

  • Treat your employees like human beings and not mindless worker drones.
  • Pay attention to any problems they are having and support them accordingly.

#2: Your employees will be more productive

Low morale is the reason why many employees become unproductive. They might turn up to work late, leave work early, and work less efficiently within the working day. These behaviours are often born through resentment for their employer, but they are also caused by the stressed-out state that can interfere with their daily performance. 

When an employee is unproductive, your business will suffer as a consequence. If work isn’t being done, you won’t meet your targets, your customers and clients won’t be happy, and your bottom line will be affected. On the other hand, the happier they are, the more productive they will become. You will then be happier because of the profits they are making for you. 

To ensure your employees are productive, you should:

  • Give them more break times to ensure tiredness doesn’t set in.
  • Support them in their work, so they are able to carry out their jobs efficiently.

#3: The reputation of your business will be positively affected

With a poor reputation, fewer customers will head to your business, the best candidates will look elsewhere for work, and your business won’t have the opportunity to grow. As a result of all of these factors, your business could fail

And what could cause a poor reputation? Your employees! 

  • They might contribute to business review sites after leaving your company and criticize your business.
  • Their poor performance could cause your customers to use those very same review sites.
  • They might complain about your business to their friends and family face-to-face or on social media, and word might then get around about your company.

To secure your business reputation, treat your employees well, as the only word-of-mouth about you that follows should be a positive one! Your profits will surely rise as a reflection of this.

Today then, consider your employees. Are they happy? To ensure your business succeeds, you might want to check in with them to find out more and take the necessary next steps if they are unhappy in any way. Your business will profit if you do. 

Thanks for reading.

IT’S NOT MAGIC: WEIGHING THE RISKS OF AI IN FINANCIAL SERVICES

OVERVIEW

Artificial intelligence has enormous potential for financial services – but ethical challenges, a skills gap and market vulnerabilities pose risks that the industry must confront. These include biases leading to discrimination against some customers and increased danger of ‘flash crashes’, which could be amplified by inter-connections to pose a systemic threat. These judgements form part of a new report from the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation, an independent London-based think-tank.

The authors, Keyur Patel, research associate at the CSFI and co-author of its ‘Banana Skins’ risk reports, and Marshall Lincoln, a Silicon Valley AI expert, interviewed a wide range of AI and ML specialists, financial practitioners, risk managers and regulators for the report. With AI and machine learning (ML) set to become ubiquitous, they found that some risks are inherent in the new technology, while others stem from a lack of human understanding and preparedness. The full report can be found here.

KEY MESSAGES

AI is fundamentally different from traditional forms of automation.

The report identifies three principal ‘risk drivers’:

  • Opacity and complexity: A trade-off at the heart of many AI models is that the more effective the algorithms, the more difficult they are to scrutinise.
  • Distancing of humans from decision making: AI is different from previous ‘rule-based’ forms of automation because it enables many actions to be taken without explicit instruction.
  • Changing incentive structures: The benefits to successful firms and the risks of getting left behind create powerful incentives to implement AI solutions faster than may be warranted.

ML models are just as fallible as rule-based ones.

  • New ethical challenges include algorithmic biases that could lead to discriminatory practices. These biases can be extremely difficult to root out because ML excels at finding complex ‘hidden’ relationships in data.
  • A purported benefit of AI is that it dispassionately draws conclusions from data, without prejudice. In practice, however, the beliefs and values of the people who build the models affect the outcomes.
  • AI systems can perform poorly in previously unencountered situations – potentially amplifying the impact of “black swan” events.

ML-driven solutions may undermine social benefits.

  • In insurance, greater risk differentiation could lead to high-risk individuals being priced out of the market, even though they may be the ones most in need of insurance.
  • ML’s ability to combine data on individuals from diverse sources might challenge our concept of fairness, as well as raising privacy concerns.
  • More personalised financial products could come at the expense of price transparency.

AI could contribute to a future financial crisis.

  • One trigger might be a particularly sharp “flash crash”, where many interconnected AI trading programs react in the same way to some market event.
  • A second might be an event that undermines public faith in the financial system, such as a coordinated cyber-attack crippling critical IT infrastructure.
  • A third relates to financial institutions using AI for risk management. How will ML-powered models trained on data when market volatility was low react to extremely rare ‘black swan’ events?

A pronounced skills gap ratchets up the risks of AI implementation.

  • Financial institutions might become dangerously over-reliant on specialists with highly technical skill sets that decision-makers do not sufficiently understand. There are parallels here with the industry’s uncritical trust in quantitative analysts in the lead-up to the global financial crisis.
  • There is a global shortage of people who can design, deploy and maintain AI systems. Hiring expert programmers who lack financial services knowledge increases the risk of poor outcomes.
  • Decision makers at financial institutions typically do not know how AI works and fail to grasp its limitations. This could lead to inflated expectations and a failure to make effective use of the models’ output, or to boards signing off on decisions without understanding the implications.
  • Other managerial weaknesses might lead to a lack of accountability, the implementation of individual solutions that do not work together and expensive duplication of effort. It may take institutions longer to accomplish less at greater cost, and expose them to security and compliance risks.

The proliferation of AI could fundamentally change market dynamics

  • ‘Fintech’ challengers that use AI most effectively could take advantage of data network effects to dominate markets. Even without explicit anti-competitive behaviour, this might make it difficult for others to compete effectively.
  • AI could lead to new forms of interconnectedness in financial markets at the IT systems level, increasing the probability of flash crashes. Financial institutions could become over-dependent on a few third-party tech providers, making them vulnerable to single points of failure.
  • Regulators will face new challenges in determining which institutions fall under the scope of financial services regulation, as more non-traditional firms challenge incumbents and lines between sectors become blurred. They must also protect competition in financial markets, while acknowledging that AI needs scale to be effective.

Outcomes depend upon humans, not machines

It is becoming increasingly common for financial practitioners to work with AI and ML. This means that they – and particularly decision-makers – must be able to critically evaluate these technologies. Their ubiquitous deployment will have consequences for consumers, institutions and the stability of the financial system. A decade after the global financial crisis, the world is still grappling with the ramifications of the industry’s embrace of complex financial instruments. Any comparisons to be made with the impact of AI are speculative, but the parallels should not be dismissed out of hand.

The report also discusses the potential benefits of AI in financial services, which include facilitating the ‘democratisation’ of the industry and offering major improvements in security, compliance and risk management. The authors argue that these benefits are compelling but focus their analysis on risks because of the hype around new technologies. The report was produced with support from Swiss Re and Endava

Getting On Top Of Your Personal Finances

Have you looked at your bank balance recently and been hit with a sense of sheer panic? You are probably not alone, money worries are unfortunately all too common. It often seems that money just flies out just as quickly as it comes in. 

Living hand-to-mouth is no kind of existence, and if you are worried about spiraling debts and the fact that you may not be able to pay the bills at the end of the month, then it is time to give your finances a review and take back control of them. 

Getting On Top Of Your Personal Finances - growing money jar debts image
Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Examine Your Current Expenditure

You may turn a blind eye to the money that goes out of your bank account each month. Sometimes it is easier to ignore it and hope that it sorts itself out. Sadly, this is not something that is likely to happen, and you need to take control of the situation before it consumes you. 

Sit down with your bank statements and work out all of your regular outgoings. List them all and then prioritize them based on the type of outgoing that it is. High priorities will include things like your rent or mortgage payments. Any debts that you owe should also be high on your agenda. 

Lower down the list should be the things that you could do without. So this may include your subscriptions to the gym, or streaming services like Spotify, or Netflix. 

Then you need to work out what you spend each month on food and transport and create a monthly maximum spend for these areas. 

If you find that your outgoings don’t match up with your income you will need to make cutbacks The low priority luxuries should be the first thing to go. 

Switch Your Services

Very often, you may find that you are paying out too much for some of the services that you have. Things like car insurances can creep up every year, so it is important to shop around for a new quote and change your provider.

Similarly, your utility providers will also tend to up their prices without you really noticing. When it comes to your gas, electric, phone, and broadband bills, you may be able to save yourself some money by shopping around and switching to new providers. You should realistically aim to do this every year to keep on top of the best deals. 

Consolidate All Of Your Debts

If you have multiple debts across a number of different companies, you will be paying out several lots of interest. Having several credit cards and loans can mean that you are constantly juggling your debt and you may not really be reducing the overall size of it. 

You should aim to consolidate all of your debt into one single loan, with an affordable monthly repayment. Work out the shortest length of time that you can affordably pay off all of your debt in, and then make sure that you cancel your credit cards once the balance is cleared by the loan.